Digital colours - from screen to production

NCS Digital is a suite of tools for professionals who work with colours.
NCS Digital allows you to visualise your idea before production, find matching colour combinations, and colourise design projects with NCS colours directly in Adobe CS or CC, using the nearest match in RGB or CMYK. You can also find tips on how to work best with colours both physically and digitally.


Digital colours are approximations of physical colour references

Colours can differ slightly between digital and printed examples. If there are visible colour differences between the computer screen, a printed item and an NCS colour sample, this may be due to limitations in printing technology. Screen settings and the settings in your graphic program may also impact the results. Please bear in mind that the NCS colours you see on screen are only approximations of physical NCS colour samples. To achieve the best results, compare a pre-sample print with a physical NCS standard colour sample before you print your entire production run.

Different colour spaces mix colours in different ways

When you switch between different colour spaces, e.g. between sRGB and CMYK on coated paper, the colours might differ. This is because different colour spaces mix colours with different primary colours. If the primary colours in a colour space are too weak, they will not mix with all the colours in another colour space with stronger primary colours. Different applications and settings will also affect the quality of the transfer from one mix to another. It will differ if, for example, the colours are shown on-screen, in an offset print, or if comparing a standard print-out with a NCS colour sample. NCS does not guarantee that all NCS colour samples can be replicated in different RGB and CMYK options or that they can be replicated in all materials or the qualities of all manufacturers. For the sake of safety, always check with your materials manufacturer before ordering the colours.

Even the paper type can affect the end result

Colour differences occur for example when the lightest and most coloured NCS colour samples in the orange, purple and green colour areas are replicated as CMYK values. Further limitations in the colour will occur when printed on uncoated paper (the colour of the paper will also impact the results). This is the main reason why certain colours are shown correctly and others are not. Some NCS colours may be outside the limits of what is possible with, say, a CMYK mix on uncoated paper.

Printer colour settings,
the operating system and the APPLICATION itself
will affect printed colours

Often print-outs will vary between printers due to differences in technology (e.g. laser or inkjet printers). The colour settings in the printer drivers, operating system, and the application itself will all influence the printed colours. It is therefore important to adjust these settings for the screen and the printer so that they agree with your printer and printing. Work for as long as possible in Lab or Adobe RGB colour space – which are amongst the largest colour spaces and where the majority of colours can be accurately replicated. In the end, you can transfer to one of the smaller colour spaces, sRGB or CMYK, to check the result before printing or publishing.

Adobe Creative Suite has tools
to help you

In the Adobe application you can check your settings under Edit > Colour settings. Under Workspaces, you can choose the colour area you want to work with. Don’t forget to select Absolute colour in Conversion settings to replicate NCS colours as best as possible. There are also some tools in Adobe CS that can help you see which colours are outside the printable colour space in your end result. In Show > Proof setup, you can see what the image will look like in print. Show > Gamut Warning will detail the colour areas that will influence the end result.

TIP: When using values from NCS Navigator, we recommend inputting Lab values into the Adobe application. Depending on your settings, all other values will adapt to the Lab value and show the correct value for the specific colour space previously selected.